Anatomical Abnormalities of the Anterior Cingulate Cortex in Schizophrenia: Bridging the Gap Between Neuroimaging and Neuropathology

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<ul><li><p>Anatomical Abnormalities of the Anterior Cingulate Cortex in Schizophrenia:Bridging the Gap Between Neuroimaging and Neuropathology</p><p>Alex Fornito1,2, Murat Yucel2,3, Brian Dean46, StephenJ. Wood2, and Christos Pantelis2,7</p><p>2Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre, Department of Psychiatry,The University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; 3ORYGENResearch Centre, Department of Psychiatry, The University ofMelbourne, Victoria, Australia; 4The Rebecca L Cooper ResearchLaboratories, The Mental Health Research Institute, Parkville,Victoria, Australia; 5Departments of Pathology and Psychiatry,The University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; 6Department ofPsychological Medicine, Monash University, Victoria, Australia;7Howard Florey Institute, The University of Melbourne, Victoria,Australia</p><p>The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is a functionally hetero-geneous region involved in diverse cognitive and emotionalprocesses that support goal-directed behaviour. Structuralmagnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and neuropathologicalfindings over the past two decades have converged to suggestabnormalities in the region may represent a neurobiologicalbasis for many of the clinical manifestations of schizophrenia.However, while each approach offers complimentary infor-mation that can provide clues regarding underlying patholo-physiological processes, the findings from these 2 fields areseldom integrated. In this article, we review structural neuro-imaging and neuropathological studies of the ACC, focusingon the unique information they provide. The available imag-ing data suggest grey matter reductions in the ACC precedepsychosis onset in some categories of high-risk individuals,show sub-regional specificity, and may progress with illnessduration. The available post-mortem findings indicate theseimaging-related changes are accompanied by reductions inneuronal, synaptic, and dendritic density, as well as increasedafferent input, suggesting the grey matter differences ob-served with MRI arise from alterations in both neuronaland non-neuronal tissue compartments. We discuss the po-tential mechanisms that might facilitate integration of thesefindings and consider strategies for future research.</p><p>Keywords:psychosis/neuron/VBM/glia/limbic/prefrontal</p><p>Neurobiological research has been critical in identifyingthe brain regions involved in the pathogenesis of schizo-phrenia, implicating several structures extending acrosslimbic, frontal, temporal, and subcortical areas.15 Onebrain region commonly reported to show abnormalstructure and function in patients with the disorder isthe anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), an area crucialfor integrating cognitive and emotional processes in sup-port of goal-directed behaviour.610 The functional diver-sity of the ACC, which encompasses executive, socialcognitive, affective, and skeleto- and visceromotor func-tions,6,1117 suggests that abnormalities in the region maypartly explain the difficulties in cognitive and emotionalintegration that characterize the clinical manifestationsof schizophrenia.15,18</p><p>Both neuropathological and neuroimaging findingssupport a role for ACC dysfunction in schizophrenia.Neuropathological research has revealed alterations inthe cellular and synaptic architecture of the region,19,20</p><p>while imaging work has identified ACC abnormalitiesthat correlate with the disorders characteristic symptomsand cognitive deficits,21,22 and which ameliorate withtreatment response.23,24 However, the precise ACC sub-region affected, and the nature of the underlying changes,has varied across these reports, making it difficult to dis-cern their pathophysiological significance. Moreover,while both neuroimaging and neuropathologicalapproaches offer complimentary information, their find-ings are seldom integrated systematically, making it un-clear how changes in cell density or synaptic morphologyrelate to volumetric differences identified with imaging.</p><p>In this article, we review magnetic resonance imaging(MRI) and neuropathological studies of the ACC inschizophrenia in an attempt to understand the patholog-ical processes underlying the changes observed with invivo imaging. Our discussion is organized around keyquestions that speak to the particular strengths of the2 approaches. For neuroimaging research, we askwhether there is evidence of (1) regionally specific abnor-malities, (2) abnormalities predating illness onset, and (3)variation in the abnormalities across different illnessstages. For neuropathological work, we ask whetherthe evidence (1) supports the existence of volumetricchanges in the ACC, (2) supports the occurrence of</p><p>1To whom correspondence should be addressed; MelbourneNeuropsychiatry Centre, Levels 2 and 3, National NeuroscienceFacility, 161 Barry St, Carlton South, Vic 3053, Australia;tel: 61-3-8344-1861, fax: 61-3-9348-0469,</p><p>Schizophrenia Bulletin vol. 35 no. 5 pp. 973993, 2009doi:10.1093/schbul/sbn025Advance Access publication on April 23, 2008</p><p> The Author 2008. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center. All rights reserved.For permissions, please email:</p><p>973</p><p> at St Petersburg State University on February 7, 2014</p><p></p><p>ownloaded from</p><p></p></li><li><p>cell loss in the ACC of schizophrenia patients, and (3)identifies changes in the intercellular neuropil. We thendiscuss the influence of psychotropic treatment on thefindings, before providing a synthesis and considerationof their implications for uncovering underlying patho-physiological mechanisms. We primarily discuss struc-tural MRI research and neuropathological studies ofcell counts and cortical, axonal, dendritic, and cellularmorphology, as these data are the most comparable,although we draw on other relevant literature wherenecessary. Rather than propose a definitive unitarypathophysiological process, we use the available datato stimulate discussion regarding which mechanismsmight be most useful in integrating findings from thesediverse fields. We begin with a brief overview of ACCanatomy and function.</p><p>Structure and function of the anterior cingulate cortex</p><p>Located bilaterally in the medial frontal lobes, the ACCcomprises the cytoarchitectonic areas 24/24 and 32/32,with area 25, commonly called the subgenual cingulate,25</p><p>located posterior to the subcallosal extension of area 24,ventral to the genu. Areas 24/32 are located dorsal to thecorpus callosum, while areas 24/32 occupy a pregenualposition.26 Areas 32 and 32 have been termed transitioncortex because they possess cytoarchitectonic featurescommon to areas 24/24 and adjacent frontal regions.26</p><p>Other authors have labeled areas 32/32 as paralimbic,or paracingulate, cortex and areas 24/24 as limbicACC due to the latters denser connections with emo-tional centres.6 The relative location and size of theseregions change in accordance with variability in sulcaland gyral anatomy. In particular, the paracingulate sul-cus (PCS), which is present in 30%60% of cases and runsdorsal and parallel to the cingulate sulcus (CS),27,28 is as-sociated with a relative expansion of area 32, such that itextends from the depths of the CS across the crown of theparacingulate gyrus that forms between the CS and PCS,contrasting its location on the dorsal bank of the CSwhen a PCS is absent.26 This variability has functionalconsequences2934 and is an important considerationwhen interpreting morphometric studies of the region,as discussed below. Figure 1 presents a simplified illustra-tion of how the major cytoarchitectonic fields vary asa function of PCS variability.</p><p>Several meta-analyses of functional MRI (fMRI) andpositron emission tomography (PET) studies have dem-onstrated that cognitive paradigms tend to elicit activa-tion in dorsal areas 24/32, whereas affective tasksproduce increased activation in rostral areas 24/32, a dis-tinction that parallels the greater connectivity betweenthese rostral areas and limbic structures.12,14,17,35 Withinthe rostral ACC, activation during negative emotionalconditions tends localize within the subcallosal extensionofarea 24andtheadjacentarea 25,while positive emotions</p><p>elicit activations in the pregenual portion of area 24,supporting a further functional distinction.17 Evidenceof functional dissociations between areas 24 and 32,and 24 and 32, are also being uncovered,7,36 consistentwith differences in their functional connectivity withother brain regions.37,38 Some evidence suggests certainparalimbic areas mediate self-reflective and social cogni-tive processes,14,39,40 although the precise nature of func-tional specialization in this region remains unclear.Broadly however, such findings suggest the ACC maybe grossly partitioned into limbic (ACCL) and paralimbic(ACCP) regions, each containing dorsal, rostral, andsubcallosal divisions (see figure 1). There is also evidencefor a caudal division involved in motor control,16 but itwill not be considered further in this discussion. (Forfurther details regarding ACC functional specialization,see 69,11,12,14,17,41,42.)</p><p>Structural magnetic resonance imaging research</p><p>Are changes in the ACC regionally specific?</p><p>Structural MRI studies have used 2 approaches to inves-tigating neuroanatomical changes in patients with schizo-phrenia. One, the region-of-interest (ROI) method,involves manual delineation of the ACC on each scan,with morphometric parameters such as gray matter vol-ume calculated secondarily. The second, commonlytermed voxel-based morphometry (VBM), is an auto-mated technique that involves spatial normalization ofeach participants scan to a common stereotactic space,followed by voxelwise statistical comparison of groupdifferences in gray matter measures. This has providedan attractive alternative to the ROI methodology becauseit affords a relatively unbiased assessment of gray matterchanges across the entire brain, although errors in spatialnormalization, particularly in morphologically variableregions such as the ACC, can complicate interpretationof findings.4345 We collectively refer to reports using oneof the several variants of this technique4650 as whole-brain mapping (WBM) studies from hereon.</p><p>The findings of cross-sectional WBM studies investi-gating anatomical changes in the ACC of patients withschizophrenia are summarized in table 1, and stereotacticfoci representing regions of maximal gray matter changereported in these studies are plotted in figure 2. Theresults suggest ACC gray matter reductions in schizo-phrenia are dispersed across dorsal and rostral divisionsof the limbic and paralimbic regions, with few differencesbeing noted in the subcallosal area. One-third (13/39) ofWBM studies failed to identify any significant differencesin ACC grey matter.</p><p>Results obtained using the ROI approach are summa-rized in table 2. Studies examining the entire anteriorcingulate gyrus (ie, the ACCL) have been variable,reporting right-sided,51,52 bilateral,5359 or no group</p><p>A. Fornito et al.</p><p>974</p><p> at St Petersburg State University on February 7, 2014</p><p></p><p>ownloaded from</p><p></p></li><li><p>differences.21,6062 Similarly, those focusing on the dorsalACCL have found either left-sided</p><p>63 or right-sided64,65</p><p>reductions or no group differences.6668 Studies of therostral ACC have been more consistent, with most find-ing no gray matter differences,63,65,6769 although onefound a left lateralized thickness increase that was posi-tively correlated with years of antipsychotic treatment.70</p><p>Relatively few (4/28) ROI studies have examined the</p><p>subcallosal ACC, with no significant differencesreported.52,68,71,72</p><p>Only 3 ROI studies have separately parcellated theACCP. The first</p><p>53 found bilateral volumetric reductionsin the region to be among the largest seen across 48 ROIsin patients with established schizophrenia. The second73</p><p>found a right-sided reduction in a first-episode (FE) sam-ple but not patients with established schizophrenia. In the</p><p>Fig. 1. Simplified Illustration of How Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) Cytoarchitecture is Altered by Variations in Morphology of theParacingulate Sulcus (PCS). Top row presents a sagittal slice through the left (right column) and right (left column) hemisphere of the N27template,179 which provides a good example of a present and absent PCS. Middle row illustrates the locations of the PCS and cingulatesulcus (CS) on cortical surface reconstructions generated from the N27 template using freely available software ( The surfaces run midway through the thickness of the cortical ribbon, facilitating visualization inside the sulcal walls. Bottom rowillustrates how major cytoarchitectonic fields in the area are altered by PCS variability. The posterior vertical black line approximates thecaudal border of what is termed the dorsal division of the ACC, and the anterior vertical black line approximates the border between areas 24/32 and 24/32. Note how areas 32/32 extend across the crown of the paracingulate gyrus when a PCS is present, in contrast to being buried inthe depths of the CS when the PCS is absent. The purple area corresponds to what is termed the limbic ACC, the pink area to the paralimbicACC. The borders are only intended as a rough approximation of their actual location.</p><p>975</p><p>Anterior Cingulate Cortex in Schizophrenia</p><p> at St Petersburg State University on February 7, 2014</p><p></p><p>ownloaded from</p><p></p></li><li><p>Table 1. Details of Voxel-Based, Whole-Brain Mapping Studies in Schizophrenia</p><p>Study Sample (No. of males) Method (Measure) Stereotactic Coordinates (x, y, z)a</p><p>Wright et al180 15 (15) SZ; 15 (15) CON SPM96T (GMC) Nil</p><p>Sowell et al181 9 (3) COS; 10 (2) CON Customized SPM96 (GMC) Nil</p><p>Foong et al182 25 (19) SZ; 30 (22) CON SPM 96T (MTR, PD) Nil</p><p>Hulshoff Pol et al183 159 (112) SZ; 158 (106) CON MNI (GMC) Nil</p><p>Paillere-Martinot et al184 20 (20) SZ; 20 (20) CON SPM96T (GMC) -8 56 10; -6 39 -12</p><p>Sigmundsson et al185 27 (26) SZ; 27 (25) CON BAMM (GMC) -0.5 46 1</p><p>Wilke et al186 48 (27) SZ; 48 (27) CON SPM99T (GMC) Nil</p><p>Ananth et al187 20 (10) SZ; 20 (10) CON SPM99T (GMV) Nil</p><p>Job et al188 c 34 (17) FE SZ; 36 (23) CON SPM99O (GMC) 3.96 40.87 1.64</p><p>Kubicki et al189 16 (14) FE SZ; 18 (16) CON SPM99T (GMC) -6 2 40; 9 14 33</p><p>Shapleske et al190 72 (72) SZ; 32 (32) CON BAMM (GMC) 3 -4 4b</p><p>Suzuki et al191 45 (23) SZ; 42 (22) CON SPM96T (GMC) 4 30 28</p><p>Bagary et al192 30 (19) FE SZ; 30 (18) CON SPM99O (MTR,GMC, GMV)</p><p>-4 40 12; -3 33 17; -1 25 22; 1 37 17; 238 12 (differences observed for MTRbut not GMV or GMV)</p><p>Kuperberg et al193 33 (26) SZ; 32 (27) CON SBM (GMT) Left...</p></li></ul>


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